•Jonathan vows improved living conditions in 2013
By Olawale Olaleye in Lagos and Muhammad Bello in Abuja
Participants at the fourth edition of the Chinua Achebe Colloquium on Africa, which held in the United States recently, have blamed socio-political inequalities and pathologies for the current terrorism attacks and other increasing acts of violence in Nigeria.
In a communiqué issued yesterday, the colloquium, convened by foremost Nigerian novelist and humanist, Professor Chinua Achebe, also suggested political solutions to the crises plaguing many African nations.
According to the communiqué, the colloquium featured keynote addresses delivered by the founder of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation for the Promotion of Good Governance in Africa, Dr. Mohamed Ibrahim; Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola; Commander of the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) based in Stuttgart, Germany, General Carter F. Ham; US Ambassador to the Republic of Niger, Ambassador Bisa Williams; Professor Emma Rothschild of Harvard University, and South African anti-Apartheid activist and former Managing Director of the World Bank, Dr. Mamphela Ramphele.
The release of the communiqué coincided with the promise by President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday to do his utmost best to improve the lot of Nigerians in the New Year.
The colloquium observed Achebe’s commitment to Nigeria as a result of which it raised specific concerns on the state of the nation about the unrelenting terrorist attacks and the spate of violence in the country.
While underscoring the significance of Achebe's new book, ‘There Was a Country’, and the debate that followed, the communiqué stated that the book was “not only about the war, but about the scars it left on South-eastern Nigerians (and the areas which constituted the Republic of Biafra) that remain unaddressed 45 years after the start of the war in 1967,” adding that the scars have continued to have detrimental effects on the entire country.
Entitled, ‘Governance, Security and Peace in Africa’, this year’s colloquium, according to the communiqué, encouraged a wide range of discussions which in turn highlighted the complex security issues that currently confront African nations, security challenges surrounding the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, home-grown terrorism, and the persistence of ethno-religious insurgency.
These, the colloquium further noted, were serious concerns that challenge the establishment of institutions and principles of good governance in Africa, adding that the main driver of conflict in Africa is poverty originating from the failure of leadership and governance.
The colloquium urged governments in Africa and private initiatives to work to grow additional, dedicated indigenous investment and entrepreneurial groups rather than depend largely on foreign aid, which it described as morphine.
“What is really needed in Africa is a dedicated and thorough operation to remove debilitating poverty that robs the people of their dignity and makes them vulnerable to the manipulation of corrupt, self-serving, and divisive leaders and warlords,” it noted.
The colloquium also encouraged African ruling parties to respect three basic democratic tenets, which it listed as: An independent and credible election system, viable and vibrant political opposition parties, and free and rigorous civil society engagement in politics.
In its review of the strategic role of the United States Africa Command (AFRCOM), in relation to the role of African peacekeepers and the success of the African Union Mission in certain flashpoints on the continent such as Somalia, Sudan and Mali, the colloquium acknowledged the idea of “partnership” between African states and the international community to maintain peace and democratic governance.
But it advised the international community to be wary of the unintended consequences of military support, such as training and arming ambitious elements and warmongers who disrupt democratic governments and the rule of law in parts of the continent.
“More resources should be committed, instead, to developing education, technology, health care, agriculture, and basic infrastructure. The colloquium recognises AFRICOM’s efforts to collaborate with African governments in their fight against terror groups on the continent in particular,” the communiqué stated.
Another critical debate at the colloquium centred on the vestiges of race and racism, which it claimed, have continued to hamper the progress that is being made in modern-day Southern Africa.
“Race was the fault line of the 20th century and will continue to be for some time to come, particularly in countries such as Angola, South Africa and Zimbabwe. This is manifested by the structures of the economies of these countries and the roles played by multinational companies,” it said.
In a related development, Jonathan yesterday, in Kaduna, said he would do all he could to devote more time to ensuring that Nigerians live under better conditions next year.
The president said while laying the foundation stone of the Living Faith Foundation's Bible College in Kaduna that Nigeria would be better for all in 2013.
“Let me assure all of you and indeed all Nigerians that 2013 will be better for us than 2012 in all aspects of the nation’s history. The New Year shall be better for us in terms of job creation, wealth creation and improved security among others,” he said.
He also said the improvement being witnessed in the power sector would be sustained, adding that the use of power generating sets by businesses and families would soon be over.
On the security challenges in the North, the president explained that security operatives were working hard to restore normalcy.
The presidency also dismissed the recent statement by the leader of the Niger Delta Volunteer Force, Mujaheed Asari-Dokubo, ruling out Jonathan's rule beyond 2015.
Asari-Dokubo had in an interview reasoned that the president might not scale through in the next election because of the activities of some of his aides and associates.
Presidential spokesman, Dr. Reuben Abati, however, faulted Asari-Dokubo 's submission, saying it arose from a skewed reasoning that was antithetical to the prevailing disposition of many Nigerians to the present administration and the president.
According to Abati, it was wrong for the ex-militant leader to undermine the president, wondering whether it was wise for Asari-Dokubo to be seen to be destroying a house he helped built.
Abati urged Asari-Dokubo to remain faithful to the president and appreciate what he is doing for the country.